Fifteen

☼►sixteen◄☼

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The sun wasn’t even fully up when I woke on Saturday. Shivering, I huddled further into my blankets and tried to get back to sleep, but a cramping in my gut told me I wouldn’t be able to. I grumbled to myself, scrubbing my fingers over my eyes, and stumbled down the hall.

I hadn’t been able to sleep very well throughout the night. Every time I tried, my mind just dredged up all the memories and emotions of Sophie’s disappearance, the hollowness I thought I had filled with distraction. I had attempted to pace around my room, but even that was unsuccessful. It wasn’t until three that I managed to finally fall asleep, my heart aching and a void in my chest.

The bathroom door was shut by the time I shuffled closer, and I raised my hand to knock. A voice from the other side stopped me. I recognised the words vaguely as a song I’d heard during all the time I spent with Harry in his bedroom, but instead of a woman singing, it was someone else. Someone with a decidedly familiar voice.

Rooted to my spot, I listened, enthralled by Harry’s singing, and a smile tugged at my lips. This was yet another surprising facet to the boy, somehow even more shocking than finding out he knew how to knit. The sound of Anne speaking in the kitchen ripped my from my thoughts, and I shook my head, realised how creepy it was to be eavesdropping outside of the bathroom.

I turned on my heel and scurried away. Emptying my bladder couldn’t wait, though, so I got permission from Anne to use her toilet. My mind was firmly on Harry, his voice singing Sisters of the Moon, as I washed my hands then stared in the mirror. Green eyes, dark curls, long fingers joining up the ends of a thin silver bracelet…

“Get yourself together,” I demanded quietly when my stomach gave a harsh jerk.

Once I had eaten a quick breakfast and grabbed a novel from my room, I made my way to Harry’s, dropping to sit on his bed. The sound of the shower shutting off came from down the hall, registering in my mind even as I attempted to lose myself in the story, and I swallowed as my heart began racing. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might come to his room to dress, but now it was all I could think about.

“You’re good,” I announced from my spot against his headboard, legs crossed, and his steps slowed, though I didn’t look up.

“Er, what?”

“Singing. You’re good.”

“You heard that?”

Rolling my eyes, I finally glanced up at Harry. “Of course I did. It wasn’t exactly super-quiet. But really, you’ve got a wonderful voice.”

“Thanks. I was, well, I was maybe thinking of trying out for that show. X Factor.”

“You should. I think you’d make it through.”

“I’ll definitely think about it, then.” His smile was brighter than the sunlight pouring in through the windows, and my heart stuttered in my chest at the sight. He shifted to sit closer, leaned forward to see the cover of my book. “What are you reading this time?”

I lifted the novel so he could see it more clearly, and he cocked his head as he read A Time to Kill aloud. When he asked what it was about, I sucked my lower lip between my teeth and debated whether I should tell him. It certainly wasn’t pleasant reading - the overt racism was enough to turn my stomach even after five re-reads. The first time I read it, I’d had to throw the book aside and run to the bathroom to vomit within the first handful of pages.

Harry stared expectantly at me, propping his head up on one hand, and I sighed. Maybe an oversimplified summary would be fine enough. So that was what I gave him: A white, Southern lawyer had to defend a black man in court for the murder of two white men who’d attacked his daughter. Oh, and the KKK made an appearance for most of the story.

Harry’s face twisted into disgust the more I spoke, and he was shaking his head vehemently by the time I finished. My finger idly traced the letters on the cover. I could only imagine what he had to say about the novel; he certainly wouldn’t be the first one to question my tastes in reading material.

“That sounds… that sounds like an awful book, Star.”

“No, no. The book itself is great. It’s very well-written, and this is the seventh time I’ve read it, so obviously it’s hard to put down.” I shrugged. “It’s just the events that are awful.”

“Why are you even reading something like this? Isn’t it meant for, y’know, older people?”

“Okay, first, that’s rude. There isn’t an age requirement for a damn book. Second, I just, I like books that make me feel, I guess. Like with The Outsiders. I felt that kind of hopelessness and pain that the Greasers felt with their situation. Or, well, at least Pony felt it.

“ But this one? I feel… anger and despair, disgust and fear, but there’s a hope that runs through it, too. Jake tries his damnedest through everything, even the horrible stuff, because Carl Lee was only doing what any father would do if his child was attacked so viciously.”

Harry stared at me for a long moment, his green eyes giving away nothing of what he was thinking. Then he blinked, and the moment was gone. I went back to reading as he stood up and made his way across the room. Soon enough, the stereo started playing softly, and his quiet singing joined in.

His lips quirked into an impish smile when he flopped down onto the bed, his head resting on my knee, and I smiled down at him before turning my attention back to Jake Brigance and the rest of Clanton, Mississippi. Yeah, I thought as I turned the page, he’s definitely going to make it.